Referee Bill Kennedy, following slur by Rajon Rondo, announces he's gay

ByBrian Windhorst ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy has announced he is gay.

"I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. "I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are."

Kennedy's announcement comes in the wake of the ejection and subsequent suspension of Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo earlier this month. Rondo was given two technical fouls and ejected by Kennedy during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics in Mexico City on Dec. 3.

Rondo approached Kennedy after a first technical and yelled at him, then continued after Kennedy issued a second technical. As he was being pulled away by teammates, Rondo called Kennedy a gay slur, two sources told ESPN. Video of the encounter appears to show Rondo using the language.

On Monday, Rondo tweeted an apology:

Rondo did not speak with reporters on Monday.

Kings vice president and general manager Vlade Divac, and owner and chairman Vivek Ranadive, also made statements Monday, apologizing for Rondo's comment and saying the organization didn't condone the behavior.

"On behalf of the team," Ranadive's statement read, "I apologize to Bill Kennedy for any harm this may have caused."

Some of Kennedy's fellow officials were aware of his sexual orientation, but not all, sources told ESPN.

In 2010, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy outed Kennedy to some when he told a Boston radio station that Kennedy was gay, and it was known by some in the league.

Kennedy, who is in his 18th season as an NBA official, is the second referee to come out in the past two years. Referee Violet Palmer announced she was gay in the summer of 2014. Palmer came out to her fellow officials in 2007.

After a longer than normal review that lasted a week, the NBA gave Rondo a one-game suspension without pay Friday for "directing a derogatory and offensive term toward a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection" according to league vice president Kiki Vandeweghe.

In 2011, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for making an anti-gay slur to a game official. Bryant apologized at the time and said his actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game and didn't reflect his feelings toward gays.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver supported Kennedy's actions in a statement to Yahoo:

"I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly," Silver said. "Throughout his 18-year career with the league, Bill has excelled as a referee because of his passion, dedication and courage. Those qualities will continue to serve him well both as a game official and as a positive influence for others. While our league has made great progress, our work continues to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity."

Kennedy, a 49-year-old Phoenix native, has worked more than 1,100 NBA games, including 68 playoff games and five Finals games. He also has experience working in the Continental Basketball Association, WNBA and international basketball competitions.

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